TEAM OF THE YEAR: Group 2's best players of 2018
RUGBY LEAGUE: With the Group 2 grand final on the horizon, The Daily Examiner sports editor Moose Elkerton has dissected the season and revealed his first grade team of the season.
From young tearaways to experienced heads, the team of the season finds a balance between raw ability and football smarts, a necessity for any side.
Daniel Donovan, Macksville
Having made the switch to the Sea Eagles this season, the classy fullback has been a catalyst for their strong run home to the Group 2 grand final. Donovan has spent most of the season playing for Macksville reserves and backing up in the first grade squad, proving his loyalty to the blue and whites. He is explosive off the mark, and proves elusive to stop.
Honourable Mention: Damian Dumas, Sawtell
Ant Skinner, South Grafton
While it might have been a tough season for the Rebels with not a lot of consistency, if there was one thing you could bank on it was that Skinner would give it his all. While his try-scoring ability, leading the side with 11, was invaluable, it was the extra efforts of Skinner that proved the difference.
Liam Dunn, Orara Valley
If they made Group 2 playing cards, Dunn's speed rating would be at max level. The Axemen flyer has been a breakout sensation this season, utilising his blinding pace on the right edge to outstrip plenty of opponents to the tryline. He finished the year with a bag full of tries, and add to that his impressive goal kicking, he was a key cog to the Axemen's success in 2018.
Honourable Mention: Joel Moss
Peter Uikelotu, Coffs
The Polynesian flyer is proof that there is no substitute to experience. A champion fullback, Uikelotu has been far from out of place on the left edge this season, and has shown his ability to tear defensive sides into ribbons. Will be key for them in the decider.
Dylan Collett, Grafton
He spent half the year on the sidelines and still forced his selection due to his raw talent with the ball in hand. Collett is a strike weapon for the minor premiers, crossing the try line an impressive 19 times from only 10 games.
Honourable Mention: Austin Cooper
Simon Britain-Snowden, Coffs
The Comets playmaker has been the excitement package of the season. The flashy five-eighth has been instrumental in the Comets' charge to the grand final, working off the back of an impressive forward pack. Snowden is not afraid to chance his arm, and his unpredictable nature has been a nightmare for defenders.
Honourable Mentions: Cameron Blair
Zachary O'Brien, Sawtell
Having lost former leader Lockie Miller to rugby sevens before the season kicked off, Sawtell fans had every right to be nervous about the impending season. But those nerves were quickly quashed by O'Brien. The skilful halfback has taken the Panthers by the horns this season, proving the key link between their explosive middle third and lethal finishers on the flanks.
Honourable Mention: Jake Frame
Matt Cheeseman, Coffs
If the Comets can thank only one man for being in the grand final, it's Cheeseman. The hard-running, hard-hitting forward has overpowered all opposition this season. Also has a handy mean streak which is not lost in rugby league. He was unstoppable in the side's clean run through finals. Cheeseman will also be awarded the Rex Hardaker Memorial Award for Player of the Season in Group 2.
Adam Slater, Grafton
The Ghosts' royal influence has been nothing short of sensational this season - that is when he is not having near-death experiences with the harsh Aussie wildlife. Has plenty of heart and always willing to put his hand up for work on the paddock. Watch out for the warrior's cry on the charge.
Honourable Mention: Cain Bunt
Todd Cameron, Grafton
Out of all the positions in this side, this was the easiest one to pick by far. The Ghosts' general was again at his consistent best this season, proving a menace for opposition big men around the ruck. His ability to get out of dummy-half on the front foot, kept the Grafton side rolling through the forwards and dominating the middle of the field.
Honourable Mention: Rhys Walters
Brad Southan, Macksville
The Sea Eagles' captain has been the backbone of their fairytale run from fifth to the grand final. Uncompromising in both attack and defence, it has been Southan's consistency at the back end of the season that has led to Danny Wicks labelling the Sea Eagles pack as one of the best in Group 2.
Danny Wicks (c), Grafton
Speaking of Wicks, the former Parramatta Eels star had been hampered by a groin injury throughout the middle of the season, but it did not affect his output on the field. He has the ability to break open the game from nowhere, and his service on the left edge for the Ghosts was invaluable. He gets captaincy of this side.
Steve Spencer, Coffs Harbour
Another of the older generation, Spencer followed coach Costin to Coffs Harbour this season and has lifted his game to another level to help the side reach the grand final. The former Sawtell captain-coach showed his leadership among a top-tier pack,while also displaying the finer points of his game playing as a first receiver for most of the season. He will be integral in the grand final.
Honourable Mention: Matt Muller